Those who forget history are often bound to repeat it.
In 1905, George Santayana, a Spanish born philosopher, essayist and poet, made the comment those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It was something former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill repeated in a speech to the House of Commons in 1948 following the horrors of the Second World War.
There is a presently a divisive debate taking place in Sackville, N.B. about whether the town should accept a retired armoured vehicle – a Cougar AVGP – from the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s) regiment. While town council there voted to accept the gift in February to place in its memorial park others don’t want the town to accept the vehicle because in their opinion it glorifies war and might frighten children.
One resident went as far as to suggest an armoured vehicle isn’t the best way to commemorate veterans. If a vehicle that serves as an example of the thousands of Canadians who’ve served in peacekeeping and combat missions around the globe since the end of the Korean War is not something that should memorialize or commemorate their sacrifice, what should?
Sackville Memorial Park already features one armoured vehicle as well as a cenotaph that includes plaques that are inscribed with the names of Sackville’s sons and fathers who lost their lives in two world wars.
Other memorial parks across Canada include examples of the weaponry of war. They’re pieces of equipment too many young men took into battle to protect the freedoms we enjoy – and sometimes take for granted today. In some memorials, there are tanks, airplanes, jets, howitzers and other tools of destruction.
If these items glorify war, should we remove them public display? Should we go into all the memorial parks and museums across the country and remove everything that serves as a reminder of what our soldiers, sailors and airmen did – and continue to do today – to keep us safe?
Truth be known, Canada has done a terrible job of remembering the horrors of war. The people of northwest Europe sometimes appreciate the effort Canadians made to liberate them 75 years ago more than the ancestors of those liberators do. It’s something that’s been pointed out by historians and by those few veterans from the Second World War who remain.
It’s not something that would be tolerated in the United States. You just have to visit former U.S. battlefields from the Civil War, Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Anzio in Italy and Normandy in France to know how much our friends to the south remember the tremendous price that comes with freedom. Maybe we can learn something from them.
The day is going to come when there are no veterans remaining from the two world wars and Korea. With that, we run the risk of forgetting about the sacrifices made on foreign soil, in the air and on and under the seas to protect democracy from fascism. Those, indeed, would be troubling times.